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Court to Synagogue engineers: You must face trial

•File photo of the collpased building
The Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday dismissed applications by two engineers who built the collapsed six-storey guest house of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN).

Justice Ibrahim Buba dismissed their fundamental rights enforcement suits which sought to prevent their arrest.

He said they lacked merit.

The engineers – Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun – had sought to prevent their trial over the fatality which occurred in September 12 last year, killing 116 persons.

They urged the court to restrain Lagos State government and the police from inviting, arresting or prosecuting them after they were indicted by a District Coroner, Oyetade Komolafe, a magistrate.

After an inquest, the coroner held in his verdict that the building collapsed due to structural defects.

He recommended the engineers for investigation and prosecution for alleged criminal negligence.

Ogundeji and Fatiregun filed two suits against the Lagos Commissioner of Police, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), the Lagos Attorney-General and Komolafe.

They sought a declaration that “the findings and recommendations of the fourth respondent (Komolafe) as contained in his verdict dated 8th July, 2015 as they relate to the applicants’ indictment for prosecution for criminal negligence and recommendation for prosecution for criminal negligence by the first to third respondents are invalid, null and void and of no effect, whatsoever.”

The applicants prayed the court to declare that the police lack the power to act on the coroner’s verdict to investigate or prosecute them.

Among others, they wanted the court to perpetually restrain the Attorney-General or any officer under his authority from initiating or commencing criminal proceedings against them on the basis of the coroner’s findings and recommendations.

The engineers had, through their lawyer, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, rejected the coroner’s verdict, describing it as “unreasonable, one-sided and biased.”

But the respondents, in a preliminary objection, contended that the applicants’ main complaint is not for enforcement of their fundamental human rights but to challenge the Coroner’s verdict.

Dismissing the application, Justice Buba held the engineers did not make a successful case that their rights were about to be infringed.

He ruled on one of the applications and adopted it for the second engineer’s similar application.

According to him, the Coroner’s Law was an enactment of the Lagos State House of Assembly constitutionally empowered to make laws.

“The Federal High Court cannot dabble into the affairs of the state and start dishing out injunctive orders,” said the judge.

Upholding the respondents’ preliminary objection, the judge added: “The coroner’s inquest is not a court of law. It does not find anybody guilty. It only recommends.”

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Posted By Bobricky On 09:22 Mon, 09 Nov 2015

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